A while ago I was attending the “Virtual Reality & 360° contentbeleving” event in AB Brussels, main subject: new ways of consuming media content through virtual reality and augmented reality. I applause the AB for having this kind of events, VR is very probable finally going to break through after multiple failures and it’s going to bring new ways in which we consume media. For example 360° video, imagine going to the cinema and be able to see the latest dinosaur film with a full 360° view. You hear crackling leaves at the left of you, you look left and what’s there… just a bird! But now suddenly a dinosaur jumps up in front on your right side so you quickly look right and get scared like hell. Film makers can use these abilities in their storytelling, even more than they can do now with 3D cinema and surround sound. Every one who has been following the current new hype in VR can certainly name a lot more use cases, and for this it was not a bad idea to attend the AB event because some of the speakers shared their ideas on how they see VR fit into commercial usage aside of the traditional gaming experience.
What was even more interesting is that we could actually test one of the scenario’s/use cases: visiting New York on the back of a small motorcycle with a 360° view. This was my second VR experience, where the first one was using some Oculus Rift def kit, now we were being set in VR using the Samsung Gear VR (Innovators Edition). I have no idea what kind of phone was used inside the Samsung Gear VR (it uses a Samsung smartphone), but what I found partly disturbing is that I noticed rather quickly that I was looking at a screen instead of really having the immersive feeling that VR is promoted with nowadays. There was also the talk about using Google’s Cardboard in combination with any kind of smartphone, and with the costs down to only a few euros there was no real argument to not give it a shot.
Cardboard us noting more that a folded paper box, some cheap lenses and tape to hold it all together. All hardware is inside the phone. And while they claim that using the Cardboard is now already available to the masses, it is a far cry from what Oculus Rift and others will be able to provide us. if your phone is not of the newest kind, probable the screen resolution will be so low that your looking at pixels instead of images. Furthermore you’re probable also missing a sensor (or two?) which will make your head mounted display rather useless in ways of experiencing 360° content. Okay, there are Google Cardboard videos on Youtube, but that about the best you can get out of a regular smartphone which is not of the newest breed. All together: I think we’re trying really hard to make it work, but we’re not there yet and I’m really eager to see how the consumer market models are going to work out when they hit the market early 2016. Time will tell!